Frances Fitzgerald and Katherine Zappone to tour Greek refugee camps

Two Government ministers will “have a first-hand opportunity to see the scale of suffering” caused by the EU’s Mediterranean refugee crisis when they visit Greece in the coming days, according to Amnesty Ireland executive director Colm O’Gorman.

He made his comment after it emerged Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone are to tour a number of refugee camps next weekend. As part of the trip, Ms Fitzgerald will meet officials from the Irish Refugee Protection Programme, who are interviewing up to 80 asylum seekers in Athens every month for re-location to this country.

During the visit, which will last from Sunday to Tuesday, the Tánaiste is also expected to meet with unaccompanied children and members of the persecuted Azidi community.

The Fine Gael and Independent Alliance ministers will visit the Eleonas refugee camp and meet Greece’s minister for migration and officials from UNHCR, UNICEF, and the European Asylum Support Office.

Ms Fitzgerald has previously said Ireland will accept 4,000 refugees as part of the EU response to the Mediterranean migration crisis, much of it as a result of the war in Syria, with 2,622 of these people being re-located from Greece and Italy.

However, just 109 people — and a mere 69 from Syria — have arrived in Ireland to date, a position that has been linked to delays in the processing of migration applications in the Mediterranean countries.

Mr O’Gorman welcomed the decision by the ministers to travel to Greece to see the situation for themselves.

However, he hit out at difficulties in Ireland and the EU for people attempting to flee war-torn regions. He said the ministers needed to be honest and accept what they will witness is a “scale of suffering, which is the result of current EU policy”.

“Faced with the worst refugee crisis in 70 years, world leaders and the EU have shown a shocking disregard for the human rights of people,” he said. “When we talk about EU failures, we must also acknowledge that Ireland is part of the problem. When the European Council agrees policies which threaten human rights, Ireland is at the table taking part in those decisions.”


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